Annual Review Template

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I’ve been doing some version of an Annual Review for a few years. I decided to pull my own process together, with the aim of keeping it simple and gentle while still being reflective and useful.

Step Zero: Keep it Simple

There are a ton of great resources on annual reviews out there. It can easily get overwhelming when you explore all the ideas, workshops, templates and PDFs. I always have to remind myself not to get too caught up in it. It’s better to finish a short exercise than to get overwhelmed and give up on a big one.

If you want to do your own annual review, but feel intimidated by the ones you see (including mine), feel free to ignore them! Do your own thing, even if it means spending 15 minutes reflecting on a few things about the past year.

Part of the reason I’m doing my own thing is to give myself the flexibility to do as little or as much of it as I want. I don’t expect to do all of the the things I’m noting below, which is perfectly fine. I think of this list as a menu, not a schedule. It gives me options for how I can spend the time I allocated to this practice. The key is for me to do some kind of reflection, not necessarily to do it in a specific way, or to accomplish specific tasks.

Step One: Review

Journals — I’ll skim through my journals from this year to see patterns of stuff I notice about myself, the major things that happened, and things I kept thinking about for future. (Some day, I’d love to combine all of my journals—currently scattered across old physical notebooks and multiple apps—into a single place. Don’t think I’ll have the time to do it this year… but then again, I say that every year 😅)

Friends — I talk about a lot about how I want to optimize for friends over followers. This means looking at friends & connections as a key output of my online presence, rather than specific metrics. I think it would be super valuable for me to spend dedicated time appreciating all the new friends, new conversations, new opportunities that have come through my energy spent writing online. Excited about this one!

Published Writing — Review my blog essays, newsletters, and digital garden notes. I don’t think I spend nearly enough time reflecting on my published work. I think there’s a lot I could learn from them—particularly to inform potential eBooks I could write based on them, and/or optimize SEO in a more focused way for my website. It won’t be possible to review them in detail — instead I think I’ll just try to extract key themes and patterns across them. Or, make a sheet so I can start doing this progressively over the next little while.

Photos — I’ll look over photos from 2021, pick out favorites, put into an album. I’ve done this in a few diff workshops, and really liked it. Somehow, I think this year’s albums will be kinda… dull? A lockdown’s worth of photos do not promise much. I expect 90% of it to be photos my cats though, so in the worst case I get to stare at my cats for a while.

Step Two: Reflect

Prompts — To get some simple prompts for reflection questions, last year I used YearCompass. It’s a little booklet you can print out, or fill digitally. No muss, no fuss. I also might pull some questions from Chris Murchison’s Mirror of Questions (shoutout to Cassie for sharing it with me!)

Letter to Self — One of my favorite exercises that I’ve been doing for several years is writing a letter to myself. The first time I did it was at a meditation retreat. I wish I could do something like that again — the energy of remoteness is so powerful. I write it by hand and put it in a little envelope, and put it away. I then read them the next year as I’m doing my annual review. So, this year, I’ll be reading the one I wrote a year ago. (Fun fact: one of the questions asked me to describe the next year in one word. I chose ‘fable’ — turned out to be pretty accurate!)

I love closing out my review with the exercise of writing to my future self: giving kudos, gratitude, sharing my hopes and dreams, and wishing him well. (BTW: If you prefer writing it digitally, you might enjoy FutureMe, a tool to send a letter to yourself in the future. Thanks to Danielle for sharing it with me!)

I hope you found this template useful! How do you approach your own reviews? Share your thoughts on the twitter thread for this post.